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Finding the royal faces in the roses: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

In the Queen’s bedroom at Osborne House, may be found a quite extraordinary chintz pattern. Used for the bed hangings of the Queen’s bed, as well as the sofa and curtains, the material has been adopted in a modern context for the room, having originally been for the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert. The Queen and the Royal Family would often cross the Solent to Osborne in either the yacht Victoria and Albert, or a smaller yacht called the Fairy.

Sofas seem to have featured indirectly in many early episodes in the Queen’s married life, from sitting with Prince Albert on the sofa in her dressing-room at Buckingham Palace after the wedding ceremony, when she gave the Prince his own wedding ring (Elizabeth Longford, Queen Victoria, 152), to sitting on the sofa the evening of their wedding day with a throbbing headache whilst Albert ‘sat on a footstool by my side’. Then there were the occasions during her first pregnancy with the Princess Royal when she was encouraged to remain on the sofa as much as possible.

In 1901, the Queen would die in her bedroom at Osborne, on a small couch or sofa-bed, surrounded by her family. When this happened, the blinds symbolically were pulled down, as the curtains of the stage of the world fell on the Queen’s life and over the whole Victorian era that bore her name. The bedroom was preserved as a ‘shrine’ for the next fifty years, a parallel perhaps to how she kept the Blue Room at Windsor as a beautiful, living monument to the Prince Consort after he died.

The sofa in the Queen’s Bedroom contains, however, a most remarkable detail. Romantic in the extreme, the chintz pattern incorporates the profiles of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in the delicate tracing of the rose stems. A similar floral pattern scheme can be seen in a photograph of the bedroom of Princess Alice and Prince Ludwig ‘Louis’ of Hesse after their wedding at Osborne in 1862; certainly the bed hangings and sofa have a type of floral cotton that resembles the later use in the Queen’s bedroom – a wreath of flowers with the initials ‘LA’ entwined over the marriage bed.

A photograph of the Queen’s bedroom at Osborne by Jabez Hughes in 1875, shows a wreath on the bedhead and a picture of Albert, with the pocket for the Prince Consort’s watch and – floral coverings for the sofa and bed hangings, though probably not at this point, the extraordinary chintz in question.

It remains a favourite quest for those entering the Queen’s Bedroom today, to find the profiles of the royal couple from within the rose pattern of the printed cotton.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2019.

About author

Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian, writer and researcher. An expert in royal studies as an academic subject, she speaks as an independent scholar on matters royal historical for both TV and radio, including the BBC. She specializes in Queen Victoria's family and Russian royalty and is an authority on Russia's last Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918). She was selected as an historical advisor for the first-time translation from English to Russian of the classic biography by Baroness Buxhoeveden (Moscow, 2012). She was elected a member of the Royal Historical Society in 2017. She also specializes in Empress Elisabeth of Austria and has written a series of academic articles on her life for Royalty Digest Quarterly, based on original research in Vienna and Geneva. Elizabeth is a long-standing contributor to the Swedish historical and genealogical journal Royalty Digest Quarterly and currently writes for the Tudor Society's magazine, Tudor Life. She is a former contributor to the European Royal History Journal and Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine and was History Writer for the world's leading independent royal news site, Royal Central. Her research interests include royal correspondence, royal servants and royal weddings, speaking on BBC Radio Berkshire's coverage on historic weddings at Windsor prior to the marriage of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (2018). She is particularly interested in royal architecture and contributed to the TV Yesterday Channel series, World's Greatest Palaces (2019). She has researched and written on the life of W. A. Mozart, writing a mini-series for the Czech Republic's sole English language newspaper, the Prague Post (2017-2019). Her two-part article on Mozart in London was published in the USA for the Newsletter of the Friends of Mozart Society (New York, Summer/Fall 2016). Elizabeth worked in the heritage sector for over ten years and has been an active supporter of numerous cultural heritage organizations including The Georgian Group, Historic Royal Palaces, Berliner Dombau-Verein e.V, Förderverein Berliner Schloss e.V, Verein Potsdamer Stadtschloss e. V, and Freunde der Preußischen Schlösser und Gärten e.V. Also a poet, Elizabeth's poetry has been published in various literary journals, including The Oxonian Review, Coldnoon and Allegro Poetry. Her first mini-collection of ten poems is forthcoming in the Edinburgh-based quarterly journal Trafika Europe, Issue TE18 All Poetry. Her debut pamphlet of poems is forthcoming with the Welsh-based publisher Marble Poetry in 2020.